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Minute of silence to honour Covid-19 victims

foto 2020 minut de silenciAt 12 noon today and following an announcement by the Consell de Formentera, the island paid tribute to victims of the Covid-19 pandemic with a minute in silence. Standing in solidarity on the steps of the Casa Consistorial were Consell president Alejandra Ferrer, the rest of the local cabinet, members of the opposition and administration staff.

Following an announcement yesterday from the government in Madrid, the country will observe an official ten-day period of mourning from 6 June. During this time, the Consell de Formentera standard will fly at half past in memory of victims.

27 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Local cabinet urges Govern to implement 061 service on island

On behalf of the governing team of the Consell de Formentera, social welfare chief Rafael Ramírez will use the upcoming monthly full-house assembly to float a proposal to push the Balearic health ministry to “implement measures necessary to establish” a base for the 061 emergency response service at the Formentera Hospital. The proposal underlines the need to coordinate the service’s jumpstarting with the reopening of borders, and to separate patients with respiratory symptoms.

In addition to asking for a reactivation of the 061 service, the proposal points to the importance —irrespective of any 061 service changes— of once again reinforcing staff if activity at the hospital returns to 2016 levels.

“More than just summer reinforcements”
Conseller Ramírez said that amid the current public health crisis, “a rethinking of circuits at every level of government is imperative. It’s something that the administration is cognizant of”. But, he continued, “the 061 service isn’t just about giving Formentera a needed summertime boost; we’re talking about enabling our hospital to properly care for patients based on the presence or absence of respiratory symptoms”.

The proposal underscores physical distancing and hand-washing as tried-and-tested Covid-19 protocol, saying they are the reason hospitals are currently seeing differentiated circuits based on whether or not patients display respiratory symptoms. However, certain circumstances —when both a doctor and nurse are dispatched on an ambulance call, for instance— make putting in place such circuits more complicated.

According to Ramírez, “a differentiated 061 service at the hospital would mean the possibility of differentiated circuits if new travel conditions, and the attendant influx of residents and visitors, lead to new Covid-19 cases”.

21 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Full-house assembly backs economic and social assistance, support for tourism sector

foto 2020.v ple telematicIn a first, members of the Consell de Formentera convened today for an urgent, one-off and online plenary session—a gathering rebroadcast on the Consell’s YouTube page and which allowed councilmembers to stick to coronavirus safety and distancing measures. The ordinary assembly will go forward under the same parameters on 29 May.

Attendees heard about the resolutions from the president’s office that have been adopted since public health emergency orders were activated in response to Covid-19, and reviewed announcements from the regional and national Socialist workers’ party (PSIB-PSOE) and Gent per Formentera (GxF) promising to donate, for the duration of the state of alarm, their respective groups’ compensation to the non-profit group Formenterers Solidaris. Spokespeople from each party underscored their hopes that the money be used “so the group can continue its work helping those most in need”.

Economic and social support
Assembly members ratified proposed economic and fiscal measures to mitigate the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal succeeded with “yes” votes from the GxF-PSOE cabinet and despite abstention from opposition consellers of Sa Unió.

Economy and tax office chief Bartomeu Escandell asserted, “This public health crisis is also a social and economic one, and spending approved in November will have to be revisited if the Consell is going to tackle it properly”. The conseller affirmed the plan was to “continue supporting economic assistance that will better prepare people, families and owners of local businesses to cope with the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Covid-19”.

“Our first priority in this administration has been families in need”, said Escandell, who pointed out that local government is currently assisting 400 family units and 900 individuals—a tack which he insisted wouldn’t be changing. The Consell is setting aside 20% of its deficit, or €200,000, to this first line of support, in addition to €325,000 which local associations agreed to divert from the 2020 participatory spending package to deal with the crisis that Covid-19 promises to unleash.

Escandell also reviewed the terms of an economic roadmap prepared in concert with the island’s business and productive sector to brace for economic fallout ahead. “Among a number of other measures adopted by the Consell which fall within our jurisdiction, collections ceased on 31 March in an effort to relieve fiscal pressure, and we asked the Tax Agency of the Balearic Islands [ATIB] to extend the payment period, which this year will come to term 1 December 2020”.

Discontinuing collection of public space occupancy tax
The conseller also pointed out the island’s government has for this year suspended collection of the public space occupancy tax paid by shopkeepers and market vendors. Temporary permits for music and entertainment will no longer be restricted to businesses open a minimum number of months of the year. The administration is also in touch with the coastal authority to reduce or eliminate the occupancy tax paid by beach bars and other public domain services.

Support for tourism sector
Cross-party backing was secured by measures to shore up the local tourism industry. Conseller Escandell described them as “agreed upon by our business community and designed with one goal in mind: to minimise the toll that the crisis stands to take on our well-being, our finances and our social fabric”. The changes include pushing back to year end 2020 the deadline on payments from new tourism businesses as well as on fees for recently declared holiday rentals, plus a 12-month extension of existing permits for holiday rentals and an extension till 2022 of the 2015-2019 plan for quality dwellings.

Escandell concluded by highlighting joint efforts under way between the Consell and Govern balear to create a targetted line of support for freelancers.

15 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Hotels and restaurants can ask to expand terrace space if path kept clear for pedestrians and emergency vehicles

An order issued by the office of the president and adopted by the Consell de Formentera lays the groundwork for terrace space to be expanded while emergency orders mandate less-than-100% table occupancy. Individual cases must first be vetted by the local government to ensure unencumbered passage for pedestrians and emergency vehicles, as the case may be.

Requests must be made online on the OVAC, https://ovac.conselldeformentera.cat, where a special section has been created to that effect. Expansions will be temporary and granted at no charge. The Consell reminds business owners that, in view of the extraordinary circumstances brought on by Covid-19, the terrace occupancy tax will be refunded in full.

Should a business wish to use the terrace allotment of adjacent shopfronts, the owner of the that space must give consent. Measures imposed by health authorities —2 metres of space between tables, clean areas and others— must be respected at all times.

11 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

“Phase 1 of opening up gives us the opportunity to see loved ones, but caution is key, for we’ve not seen the end of the public health crisis”

foto 2020 cartaThis week has been full of excitement and intense emotion. Formentera got its chance to begin Phase 1 of the process to ease out of confinement, a change that comes with the promise greater freedom, not least as it applies to visits—the first in 50 days—with family members and friends. The start of this phase means hard confinement—an imperative of the global pandemic—is through, but the time is not one for relaxing, because the public health crisis isn’t over: the disease still claims countless lives daily, and new transmissions are all but eradicated.

These days have been extremely trying. How we’ve yearned to get back—to our loved ones, to our customs, and even, to our daily routines. But if the new phase is cause for joy, it is certainly no reason to let down our guard. Otherwise, this step forward might be a future step backward in disguise.

Rollout of Phase 1 of confinement de-escalation brings with it an immensely significant vital change, and that is that social gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted. Not only that, but small shops and restaurant terraces can receive customers again. The result is a return to life in society, and a small step towards economic reactivation. But the effort of confinement will have been meaningless if we get carried away by carelessness: now more than ever, at gatherings, your responsibility and sense of precaution in respecting the measures laid out by health authorities is crucial, for the risk of transmission hasn’t disappeared, and we can’t afford to put our healthcare system at risk. So our plea to you is this: keep protecting those most vulnerable. We’ve gone from a phase of control to one of responsibility, where appropriate handling of the liberties we regain is everyone’s business, both as individuals, and as members of society.

This week was exciting and intense for the Consell de Formentera, as well. Monday marked Formentera’s passage to Phase 1 of lockdown loosening amid the Covid-19 crisis, and we did it before the rest of Spain. In one fell swoop, we and three other islands in the Canaries became a proving ground that will help prepare the rest of the country as it implements the same changes in the weeks ahead. In Spain and abroad, the spotlights are on us, and our island is the mirror reflecting the future that awaits the other Spanish territories.

To ensure the correct progression through each step in the process, de-escalation must happen respecting the particularities of each place, and empowering regional and local authorities with greater decision-making abilities, since it will be up to each territory to implement and monitor the public health, hygiene and social measures key to attaining our objectives.

De-escalation has only just begun. There’s a long road ahead, and we’ll be walking it together as we move slowly from this initial and local lockdown lifting to, health situation permitting, the phases that follow.

We must keep in mind that Formentera may be among the first islands to ease into post-confinement, but this isn’t a competition. In order to move forward and reopen the island to visitors, first, from neighbouring islands, next, from the rest of Spain, and finally, we hope, from the world at large, the rest of the country must rise to its feet, and start down this same path.

Our efforts have been colossal, and I won’t ever tire of voicing my admiration in that respect. But the work must continue, and we must do it as one: conscientiously, responsibly, carefully and with common sense. And, with these as our foundations, I am confident the steps forward will only continue.

Alejandra Ferrer
President, Consell de Formentera

9 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

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